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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA TOURNAMENTS : Impatience Hurt Missouri, Coach Says : West Regional: Stewart cites poor shot selection for the Tigers' 29-for-83 performance.

March 27, 1994|LONNIE WHITE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The box score told the story of why Missouri's dream season ended with a 20-point nightmare loss to Arizona on Saturday in the NCAA West Regional final.

Fifty-four missed shots out of 83 attempts. Twenty-six misfired three-pointers out of 33 tries. Twenty-seven fouls and 12 turnovers. Arizona's starting three-guard backcourt with 67 points compared to Missouri's two guards with 23.

"It was probably a combination of both (poor outside shooting and Arizona's defense)," Missouri Coach Norm Stewart said. "But I would say it was a little more of a lack of patience. I don't think we were tense, but really not in sync and we didn't give ourselves a chance to get in sync.

"We took 83 shots, but obviously a lot weren't good ones."

After reaching the regional final by winning 18 of its last 19 games, thanks to timely perimeter shooting and strong team defense, Missouri (28-4) had a December flashback against the Wildcats.

Instead of playing their best game of the season to gain a berth in the Final Four, the Tigers played like the team that lost by 52 points to Arkansas more than three months ago.

Missouri led only once against the Wildcats, at 11-9 six minutes into the game on a three-point basket by Melvin Booker. The lead lasted only 18 seconds as Arizona outscored the Tigers, 14-3, over the next three minutes.

"We couldn't get the ball in the hole early," Stewart said. "We missed easy shots."

Arizona, which has made a practice this year of not losing early leads, made things difficult for a Missouri comeback by answering every brief scoring run by the Tigers with one of its own.

With Damon Stoudamire scoring 18 points from the outside and getting several key rebounds, the Wildcats took a 48-34 lead at halftime.

"Missouri is a team we felt didn't get back well on defense," Stoudamire said. "Therefore, if we got the rebound, we felt we could definitely push the break, especially if one of the guards got the ball."

Missouri had a chance to rally at the start of the second half when Arizona missed 16 of its first 21 shots, but the Tigers had their own share of scoring problems.

With reserve Paul O'Liney scoring five consecutive points, Missouri cut the Wildcats' lead to 52-44 with 15 minutes remaining. Arizona then answered with six consecutive points.

"In the second half, they didn't shoot the ball very well starting off," Booker said. "We came out and got it down to like eight points. But we couldn't make the key plays to bring it down enough."

The Tigers had hoped to get Booker, their leading scorer, free for some easy shots in the second half, but Arizona's Reggie Geary wouldn't allow him to break free.

Geary, a sophomore from Santa Ana Mater Dei High, harassed and annoyed Booker all game as he limited him to five-of-12 shooting for only 14 points.

"He did a real good job," Booker said. "He was very aggressive and he also was very quick. I had trouble trying to penetrate."

The only player who was having any type of offensive success against Arizona was center Jevon Crudup with 14 points, but he battled foul trouble for most of the game before fouling out with 7:25 left.

Once Crudup sat down, Arizona fans began to chant "Final Four," while Missouri followers could only think back to the Tigers' 15-game regular-season winning streak and 14-0 Big Eight Conference record.

"I think the season on the whole was a great one," Missouri senior Lamont Frazier said. "We accomplished quite a lot from the beginning of the year. This was something we looked forward to all year. Right now, we have nothing to be ashamed of."

And you can bet that the Tigers will be rooting for Arizona in Charlotte.

"I hope that they do well," Stewart said. "If they can get guard play and handle the pressure, which would appear that they could, they'd have a good chance."

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